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Trump's malicious use of 'Chinese virus'

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CNN's John King says President Trump seemed to be "deliberately" singling out China and using a stigmatizing term to refer to the novel coronavirus.

Posted: Mar 19, 2020 3:01 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2020 3:01 AM

When Donald Trump wants to rally his base and distract from his many screw-ups, he falls back on one thing: xenophobic racism.

It looks like members of his administration have picked up this dirty trick.

Earlier this week, CBS reporter Weijia Jiang (disclosure: she is a friend) tweeted that a member of the Trump administration had called the coronavirus "Kung-Flu" when talking to her. She is Chinese American. "Makes me wonder what they're calling it behind my back," she wrote.

Trump himself sent out a tweet Monday calling Covid-19 "the Chinese virus," and then repeated it Wednesday as he began a televised news conference in which he invoked the Defense Production Act. It's an intentional bit of provocation and racism that evokes the turn-of-the-century "yellow peril," when Americans and Europeans fear-mongered about allegedly dangerous East Asians.

In 1882, the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants from coming to the country -- not so very different from Trump's own racist and fear-mongering 2017 travel ban that predominantly targets Muslim-majority countries.

Reactionary media, self-interested political figures and racist whites portrayed East Asians as dangerous "others" back then, and blamed Chinese people for taking "white jobs." (Is any of this sounding familiar yet?) The result? Decades of discriminatory immigration policies, discrimination in housing and education and violence against Asian people, including mass atrocities.

Pandemics are frightening because you can't see a virus. Throughout human history, rampaging illnesses have regularly been blamed on some outside force, from God sending down a pestilence, to -- more often -- unfamiliar outsiders or unpopular minorities allegedly bringing in disease, along with other traditions and practices that the dominant group is quick to deem dirty or morally wrong. European Jews were blamed for the Black Death and massacred.

People living in rural areas have blamed city dwellers for polio; HIV was initially blamed on gay men. Scapegoats and new diseases have often gone together, often to lift blame from the people in charge.

When there's a lack of information, you understand why everyday people grasp at the nearest possible explanation. But the President of the United States? There's no excuse. The President's indirection and obfuscation in the face of scientific evidence has put citizens at risk, as he invites them to think of the disease as "Chinese" and not a wholly American crisis sweeping our nation.

This President isn't acting out of ignorance; he's acting out of malice. He has screwed up the coronavirus response royally, downplaying the threat with ludicrous pronouncements in front of TV cameras, while his health care officials issued grave warnings. He said it will pass soon, that warm weather will help and other nonsense. On January 30, he said, "We only have five people. Hopefully, everything's going to be great."

On February 2, he told Sean Hannity of Fox News: "Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. ... We've offered China help, but we can't have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus."

Americans are sick and dying -- and it's going to get worse, in large part because of the administration has been slow to make testing available. For this, he said in a recent news conference, "I don't take responsibility at all." But he knows someone has to shoulder the blame.

So he blames a "Chinese virus." A reporter asked him Wednesday why he keeps calling it this. He replied, "'Cause it comes from China. It's not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that's why. I want to be accurate."

He added -- making plain that even in a national emergency, it was revenge, not accuracy or the safety and well-being of citizens that was on his mind -- "I have great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know, China tried to say at one point ... that it was caused by American soldiers. That can't happen, it's not going to happen, not as long as I'm President. It comes from China."

And, of course, China being an authoritarian state hasn't helped. As much as some are trumpeting the ability of the Chinese to quickly lock down millions, the real story is that the Chinese government did as authoritarians do: They misled, withholding information from the public until the crisis was at full tilt. Anyone in the chain of command who thought this was the wrong thing could not, or did not, speak out. (A Chinese official did indeed blame the presence of the virus in Wuhan on the US military.)

It's that strategy that Trump, troublingly, is adopting, as he also falls back on his usual tactic of blaming someone else.

The Trump administration official who allegedly made a racist comment to a reporter isn't an anomaly; he or she is following the contemptuous example of a bigoted boss. That Jiang tweeted it is an act of bravery, transparency and integrity.

In the midst of the crisis, we need more of what Jiang is bringing, and a whole lot less of the presidential fecklessness and Trump Team racism that puts us all at greater risk.

Hunker down; the worst is yet to come.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
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